The message bears repeating: Continually request feedback from your subscribers by using short, interactive surveys. This is the best way to learn whether or not your newsletter is relevant. You’ll also determine what does and doesn’t work with your e-zine and what changes your readers would like to see.
Ask them. They’ll tell you. And they’ll be honest. Remember, these customers have requested to receive e-mail from you, so they have a vested interest in making sure that the time they spend reading your newsletter is indeed time well spent.
As with most online activities, shorter is better when it comes to surveys. The direct-mail golden rule is “no more than seven questions.” Start from there and then try surveys of varying length to determine the ideal number of questions for your audience. And remember, people are always more interested in anything that clearly benefits them. The more you can focus the questions on their needs and interests, the better the response will be—and the better the feedback.
The easiest way to do a survey by e-mail is to send a text message with a link to the survey from online. You can present this either as a standalone mailing or as a link in your regular newsletter. Your level of permission for e-mail and relationship with subscribers will dictate the best approach. If you hope to do surveys often, consider asking subscribers to sign up specifically for a Customer Opinion Board or something like that. Remember the cardinal rule of self-segmentation: Customers who raise their hand and offer to tell you what they think are going to yield higher responses.
You can also embed survey forms right into HTML e-mail messages. Again, you can do this as a one-off mailing or within your newsletter. There is evidence that embedded forms yield higher response rates, but they can sometimes cause problems in certain e-mail programs, so test carefully. However, if it does work for your audience and your software can handle it, consider putting a question or two in every newsletter. Over time you will be able to amass a warehouse of information about your subscribers.
Matt Blumberg and Michael Mayor are the driving forces behind Return Path, an e-mail performance company. Collaborating with them on this project are their colleagues, e-mail strategists Stephanie A. Miller and Tami Monahan Forman. This article was excerpted from their new book, “Sign Me Up! A Marketer’s Guide to Creating E-mail Newsletters That Build Relationships and Boost Sales (iUniverse Inc., 2005) © 2005 Return Path, Inc. All rights reserved.